Monday, 5 June 2017

Recognizing Stressors

We've been learning about how to be stress detectives in our MEHRIT Centre course - digging deeper to find those hidden stressors that are impacting our limbic system even though our Prefrontal Cortex may not even notice.  Hidden stressors can be things like lights, noise and even junk food.

I revised my original popplet to show my learning over the last few weeks (It's easier to see on the link!)

When I posted the original popplet on my blog, it was such a small post I wondered if it was even worth sharing yet it has generated some interesting discussions.  Doug Peterson and Stephen Hurley featured it as one the blogs from Ontario Educators on their podcast at VoicEdRadio.

Doug posted a comment about it on his feature This Week InOntario Edublogs 

In the category of better late than never, comes this post from Lisa Cranston.  In full disclosure, Lisa and I worked together for years, and one of the greatest groups that I had a chance to be part of was our Early Years Technology group.  I learned so much from my colleagues in that group and, when the topic came to visual mindmapping, I thought that I contributed back by showing how to brainstorm and share thoughts visually with our use of the SMARTBoard, SMART Ideas and other applications.

Well, it turns out that I wasn’t all that effective!

 I responded to Doug, but for some reason it didn't show up on his blog. Anyway, I absolutely love using graphic organizers with students and we used lots of them in the Early Years Technology group he spoke of - venn diagrams, T-charts, webs and more.  But I didn't use them as a tool for my own learning. I tended to use lists and maybe a table. But an assignment for my doctoral work required us to create a mind map for our final paper and, after much grumbling and complaining, I found I really liked it. I used iMindMap for my proposal and I've gone back to that mind map multiple times for assignments since then.  

I guess what's good for the students is good for the teacher!

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Kindergarten Graduation Alternatives

Each year at this time social media is full of ideas for kindergarten graduation ceremonies - some with caps, gowns and diplomas. There are so many reasons why my school district discourages kindergarten graduation ceremonies.  

1) They aren't graduating! They aren't leaving the school. With full day kindergarten now in every public school in Ontario they are simply going from one full day program to another full day program.  We don't graduate from grade one to grade two, so why from kindergarten to grade one?

2) Grade one is not academic boot camp and our grade one classrooms should be more like kindergarten classrooms. 

Too often, I hear adults say things to 'graduating' kindergarten students like:

"Oh, you're going to be starting big-school now"
"When you get to grade one, there's no more play.  You have to learn how to read now."

OK - no! A thousand times no.

What was developmentally appropriate in June is still developmentally appropriate when the students return as grade one students in September.  The ministry of education in the province of Ontario has provided resources and supports for primary teachers to ensure that the programs for primary students (grades 1 - 3) are more play and inquiry based; more like our kindergarten programs! 

Kindergarten is school.  Play is learning, Students in kindergarten are learning. They are engaged in all kinds of literacy learning, including purposeful, authentic, developmentally appropriate literacy activities.  Kindergarten students are already learning to read - they are developing their concepts of print, they are developing alphabetic awareness, and engaging in texts with their classmates and educators. Learning to read starts when parents and caregivers sit with a child in their lap and read to them. Learning to read starts long before children arrive at school.

3) It takes time away from kindergarten program. Instead of engaging in rich, play-based learning, kindergarten students are practicing marching into the gym for graduation, and practicing new songs to sing during the ceremony. 
4) Kindergarten graduation ceremonies are for the adults.  When asked why they have kindergarten graduation ceremonies, almost everyone talks about the adults: the parents love it, the parents ask for it, we've always done it and the parents expect it.  No one ever says it's about the kids. Education should be about what's best for kids and their learning.  

Please don't think I'm a party-pooper who wants everyone working and learning until the last bell rings on the last day of school.  I believe that celebrating transitions is important.  These rituals build community and mark milestones in life's journey.  So instead of a graduation ceremony, here are some alternatives:

Favourite songs concert: Instead of learning new songs for graduation, let's invite the kids to decide what their favourite kindergarten songs and activities are and share those. Invite parents and caregivers to come and engage in the songs and activities with the students instead of kids performing and adults watching. 

Family picnic and games:
Enjoy a picnic together on the school lawn with games, face painting, and music. 

NAEYC: End of the Year Celebrations

The parents will still have photos to post on social media and everyone can relax and have a good time celebrating all the learning and the time spent together in kindergarten.

Here is a great article with links to research if you're trying to convince your colleagues, administration, and/or parents to move from kindergarten graduation to something more appropriate: